As the days get shorter and the evenings cooler, a homey cocktail bar may be the haunt to nestle in while embracing early nightfall. Philomena’s, with vibes cozy and Edison bulbs aglow, might just be that welcoming bar to slip into after dusk.
Located at 790 Grand Street, the newly-opened Philomena’s offers unpretentious elegance, a kind staff, and affordable but stylish drinks. (Craft cocktails — highly crushable — go for $13 a pop.) Brothers and owners Kyle and Sean O’Brien keep their contemporary bar’s menu simple but diverse: on the cocktail list, all the main food groups are represented (gin, vodka, and whiskey, but also mezcal, cynar, and coco-washed dark rum), along with some red and white wines, and beers both canned and on draft. The bar snacks menu features a limited number of eats including pillowy pita (of the semolina variety) that can be dipped in hummus, a bottarga onion dip, or a duck liver mousse — all flavorful, smooth, and filling.
There’s not a bad seat in the house; a long, dark-wooded L-shaped bar, some high tops, and comfy banquettes all offer views of snazzy wall décor that includes exotic masks, hanging plants, old music boxes, and, most importantly, flattering mirrors.
The looks are important, but the drinks are the star of the show. Balanced and unique, the drinks come in a spectrum of glasses, colors, and designs. The simplest ones are the strongest (the Alice has whiskey, yuzu, honey-rhubarb gem ice, and a splash of seltzer). Here and in other drinks, ice is the gimmick: frozen concoctions dissolve to create a dynamic and ever-evolving sipping experience, but sometimes it takes a while for the drama to take effect.
The titular Philomena felt like two beverages: the Prosecco, and then the watermelon-rosé ice sphere swimming in the bubbly that was slow to dissolve. But if you’re waiting for one element to melt and infuse the other (ore are in the mood for a more interactive experience), there are picks to help you get the job done.
But then again, what’s the rush? Philomena’s wants you to stay a while, and with glowing candles and a sleek but handsome design, it’s hard to do anything but enjoy where you are.